If you thought Boreham Wood FC was 50, think again. The town's great club may be older than it seems. DAVE RAWLINGS investigates

Boreham Wood FC celebrated the 50th anniversary of their formation with a recent prestige match at Meadow Park against double winners Arsenal, but one of the original founder members of the club says that such festivals are all a year too late!

John Slane, now in his mid-80s, and still living in the same house in Furzehill Road that he moved to in the early 1930s, played half back for the Boreham Wood Rovers, and was instrumental in the genesis of the current club as a member of their first management committee.

Indeed, Mr Slane can provide documentary evidence to prove that it was in fact he who made the proposal to change the club's name to Boreham Wood FC at a meeting held in the Wellington Hotel in Theobald Street on the evening of August 14 1947.

A yellowing cutting from the following week's newspaper carries a report on that meeting, and includes a revelation that an amalgamation was suggested between the Rovers and the Elstree Cricket Club, to form a first class sports club.

Chairman G Howell was quoted as saying: "In addition to enabling us to play cricket on a first class ground, the amalgamation might result in our obtaining a private football pitch near the existing cricket pitch.

"Although Elstree may be a bit far away at the moment, in a few years' time, we shall probably consider it is quite close, as Boreham Wood is a rapidly growing community."

This event obviously never took place, but the dropping of Rovers from the club's title went through, Mr Slane pointing out that "the practice of calling clubs by extravagant names was falling into disuse".

When I met John recently, he told me that another consideration was the fact that there were plans at the time to form another football club bearing the name of the town, so a meeting was held to "make official the name".

He said: "I came back from the war in 1946, and we reformed Boreham Wood Rovers. I believe that I'm now the only one left, apart from maybe Pat Howard, who I think lives in Beaconsfield now."

Mr Slane glanced around his living room, and went on: "We used to have meetings in this very room, with a couple of quarts of brown ale, and discuss what we would and wouldn't do.

"The team was in the Hendon & District League then, and played originally on a pitch at the Meadow Road playing fields (behind where the current ground now stands)."

Pointing to a cutting, he said: "Rovers played during the 46/47 season. After our meeting in 1947 we carried on as Boreham Wood."

What, I asked, of the Royal Retournez club? "They were never a very good team," laughed Mr Slane. "In that first season, 1947/8, the club ran two teams on a Saturday. One was runners-up in the Barnet & District League Division One, and beaten in the final of the 'A' Challenge Cup."

Records of these fledgling days are very difficult to find. BWFC relies on the exhaustive records of programme editor John Gill, which only stretch back as far as John's arrival at Meadow Park circa 1980.

Even the records of the Borehamwood Times only date back to the formation of the old Borehamwood & Elstree Post from the ashes of the Elstree Local, which stopped in June 1949.

So in an effort to verify Mr Slane's claims, I travelled to the British Museum's Newspaper Library in Colindale. Pouring through some of the musty old copies of the Hendon Times, Barnet Press, Herts Advertiser and Edgware Local provided confirmation that there was indeed a Boreham Wood FC before 1948.

Vic Steel's Around Town column in the "local", dated April 22 1948, reported beneath a headline that read Laings Wrest Cup From Boreham Wood: "Harry Read (right back), with Johnnie Slane and Clem York in the half back line shut out any movement by the opposition forwards."

This was part of an account of the HDL 'A' Challenge Cup Final, lost by Wood to a goal scored direct from a corner kick by Laings' inside left, Roy Thomas, despite having 75 per cent of the game. Beneath this item was a notice that in many ways captured the era: "Paper supplies are short; Lend your Local to a friend."

Flicking back to January, the same publication reviewed Wood's 5-2 away win at Old Hendon Ex-Servicemen's Club in glowing terms: "Secretary and outside left Pat Howell was instrumental in at least two goals. The rest of the attack, Dan Bennett, George Fitzhugh, Bill Davis and young Peter Wilkinson, are all potential goal-getters."

The reporter added that "Boreham Wood hasn't lost a game since 1946!", which only served to cloud the issue still further. With other wins recorded earlier in the campaign that included 8-1 over Duple and 10-1 against Handley Page Reserves, it was little wonder that the H&DL team finished up on top of the pile, ultimately just missing out on their own 'double'.

Interestingly enough, one newspaper from September 3 1948 -- after their apparent amalgamation as part of BWFC -- reports on the progress of Royal Retournez in the Mid Herts League as they lost at North Mymms.

A couple of weeks later Retournez, a club formed by servicemen returning from hostilities, went down 6-0 to Mount Pleasant, a defeat excused by "the loss of goalkeeper G Paternoster with a split thumb after 15 minutes' play". However, such form would appear to back up Mr Slane's faith in their ability. Wood later moved from their original ground to a new pitch at Eldon Avenue. Mr Slane was unclear as to the date of this event, but said: "Lady Ewell let us have the field behind the Rock Studios, and the Army had a hut in the dip in Green Street, which we brought, took to the new ground and rebuilt there."

John Slane played for Wood until he was 50 years old. He used to watch the present team, adding: "I very seldom get down there now, but I do remember the FA Cup match with Swindon."

As one of the last survivors of that AGM in August 1947, it was fascinating to meet Mr Slane, and dare to try to compare the incomparable.

The current Wood set up is, by their own admission, run as a self-financing winning machine, with corporate hospitality and the like high on the agenda, and a stadium that the boys of 47/8 would find unrecognisable from their donated pitch behind the prefabs.

He offered me a glimpse of a different era, one we shall not see the like of again.

Converted for the new archive on 30 June 2000.Some images and formatting may have been lost in the conversion.